ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health is ramping up efforts to get more people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as the expiration date on the second booster shot draws ever closer.
The ministry announced a new rollout on Wednesday September 14 to increase the number of booster doses administered around the country as tourist arrivals are expected to pick up in the coming months.
Four consecutive Saturdays – September 17, 24, October 01 and 08 – have been named vaccination days.
Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health Samitha Ginige said at least three vaccination centres per Medical Officer of Health (MOH) area will be set up for anyone eligible to go and get jabbed.
All state hospitals, except local ‘base hospitals’ will also have a vaccination centre of their own during the four Saturdays.
Existing vaccination centres around the country will continue to operate all seven days of the week as usual, said Ginige.
COVID-19 vaccination of children between the ages of 12 and 15 which came to a halt due to the closure of schools following Sri Lanka’s fuel crisis will be reinitiated this week as well.
The Health Ministry extended the expiry date of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines that were imported for three months on the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in July 2022.
Upon WHO recommendation, the ministry has officially extended the expiration date of Pfizer vaccine vials received under FN 5436, FN 2898, FM 9281 and FM 5450 batches till 31.10.2022 from the initial date of expiry of July 31.
Sri Lanka purchased 18,000,000 doses of the Pfizer jab by January 2022, out of which 11,852,235 doses were administered by September 14 while approximately 6,147,765 are still in stock.
Gnige told reporters on Wednesday that the number of COVID-19 patients in the country has fallen significantly compared to early August where daily cases went up to around 200.
“The numbers are gradually coming down compared to early weeks of August. But this does not mean the danger is no more. We saw how cases increased from late July to early August and how fast it grew,” he said.
As a majority of the population has taken at least one dose of the vaccine and been following basic health guidelines, he said the country’s health authorities have been able to control the spread.
However, Sri Lanka is still in danger of being exposed to new variants at any given time, he said.
“With more tourists expected later in the year, if people get the [second] booster dose, even if the number of tourists increases and new variants come in, as a country we will be in a stronger position to control the spread,” he said. (Colombo/Sep14/2022)